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Opinion

Opinion: Kosovo has new president - and fight continues

Hashin Thaci is ascending to Kosovo's highest office. National unity has unraveled since the country declared independence in 2008, and many doubt that Thaci can hold things together, DW's Vilma Filaj-Ballvora writes.

Massive resistance to a legislature's decision is not a sign of good things to come: Sharpshooters and special police units protected Kosovo's parliament while the opposition sprayed tear gas in the plenary again and organized street protests to prevent the vote.

On Friday, Kosovo's parliament elevated Foreign Minister Hashin Thaci, the chairman of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), to the presidency.

Vilma Filaj- Ballvora

DW's Vilma Filaj-Ballvora

It was one of the few positions Thaci had not held. He was one of the most important leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army during the war against Serbia and was prime minister from independence in early 2008 straight through to the end of 2014. As foreign minister and the leader of the ruling party leader, he has been a key figure in the current government, too.

After the war

Kosovo's present conditions are bleak: Ethnic disputes remain unresolved, crimes committed during the 1990s war remain unprosecuted, and there are serious corruption, extreme poverty and mass emigration to deal with.

The country has been ungovernable since the 2014 parliamentary elections. The largest opposition party, the center-left Vetevendosja (Self-Determination), is striving to unite with Albania, which would be a nightmare for the countries that had supported Kosovo in its secession from Serbia less than a decade ago. And Vetevendosja categorically rejects normalizing relations with Serbia. That has also prevented any lasting agreement on increased autonomy for Kosovo's Serb minority.

Parliament has been paralyzed for months, and many are demanding new elections - which might reshuffle the deck but would not likely lead to solutions: The PDK and its coalition partner, the Democratic League of Kosovo, have failed to come up with convincing proposals to solve the country's fundamental problems, nor for that matter has Vetevendosja or any other opposition party, such as Alliance for the Future of Kosovo or Nisma.

Furthermore, Kosovo's governing coalition was not formed on the basis of political agreements but on backroom wheeling and dealing. Realistic objectives and compromises appear not to have entered into the negotiations, which seemed more concerned with allocating positions - such as naming the president. Ever since, the opposition has committed itself to a relentless power struggle. Kosovo is more bitterly divided than ever.

A divisive pick

Only Kosovo's political elites can find solutions to the nation's problems - and they must. The president is supposed to stand above party politics and provide valuable input. Many doubt that Thaci could succeed at such a task: He is seen as an autocrat who is rarely willing to compromise. He is said to exacerbate conflicts rather than resolve them.

Thaci is also suspected of corruption and connections to organized crime. His name is associated with contract killings during the war and also appeared in a European Council report on organ trafficking. A special court will soon examine much of this. The new court could also target other leading politicians in the government and opposition.

More than anything, Kosovo needs internal reconciliation. The young state has to deliver on crucial commitments: rights for the Serb minority, compromises in the dialogue with Serbia, and, last but not least, myriad economic and legal changes. If Thaci wants to successfully represent his country, he must use his power as president to motivate people to participate in dialogue, make compromises and work harder. If he does not succeed, more chaos can be expected and Kosovo's goal of joining the European Union will become more and more difficult to achieve.

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